Freshman Gabe Simons appeared on the Huskie coaching staff’s radar during their high school camp when he was an attendee following his grade 10 year. Since then, Simons has continued to grow and develop while enrolling at the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida for his grade 12 season, and following that up with a spot on Team Canada for the Junior world championship in Kuwait. He wasn’t able to participate in spring camp as he healed an injury, so Friday marked his first day on the field with the Dogs.
“I’m really excited to be here,” Simons told Huskie Outsider following the team’s third practice of training camp. “It’s great to finally be a part of the team and show what I can do; it’s a lot of fun.” He feels that his time with Team Canada helped to prepare him for his step up to CIS football. “The slotbacks are a lot bigger,” he remarked, “so that’s a bit of a challenge. Everything happens a step faster, but during my time with Team Canada I was going against receivers like Mitch Hillis so that prepared me somewhat for this. If I was coming straight from Luther (his high school in Regina) to here I would probably feel a little differently. Having said that, there’s nothing that quite compares to the size of athletes that you will face here, and some of the guys have been here for a few years and I’m just starting to learn the system. It’s a great challenge.”
A comparison is already being made between Simons and former Huskie great, and first overall CFL draft pick, Dylan Barker. When asked about this, Gabe’s response reminds some Huskie followers about how old we are starting to get. “I first heard that comparison during spring camp and I wasn’t sure who Dylan Barker was; I googled his name and thought ‘wow, that’s some pretty nice praise!’ That’s a pretty big comparison to live up to, but it’s definitely a cool thing to hear and it’s something to work towards.”
Defensive backs’ coach Cody Halseth was asked about Simons and the comparison that people are starting to make between him and Barker. “He reminds a lot of people about Dylan Barker because of his size. Right now we’re looking at him at safety, but Gabe is a guy who can play anywhere on the field and we’re trying to find a spot for him and see where he’s comfortable…he could play corner, halfback, or safety.” When I remarked that Simons could probably also play linebacker, Coach Halseth joked that “he could maybe even play rush end, so who knows.” While it’s not a sure thing, during an interview with Huskie Outsider, prior to training camp, Coach Brian Towriss indicated that Simons’ size and development would quite possibly allow him to avoid taking a redshirt this season.
As stated earlier, Gabe spent his grade 12 football season at the IMG academy in Bradenton, Florida. He was asked how the opportunity came about and to talk a little about the experience. “I found out about it when I was in Saskatoon training with Team Saskatchewan for the Football Canada Cup. I was in the ice bath and I came out and looked at my phone, and I had received a Facebook message from the coach at the academy. He asked me if I wanted to come down; I kind of brushed the message off as a standard sort of form email that they would send to a thousand kids. Then I started hearing from them a little more. It’s a pretty expensive school but they were offering a bunch of full ride scholarships so I just had to pay for the flight down there. I didn’t really want to leave Luther High, but it was one of those opportunities that was too good to pass up. We travelled all around Florida to play some of the top teams in the state. Unfortunately I broke my wrist in the fifth week, so I came home after that. The whole experience was great; the training camp there was fairly similar to the camp schedule here – we had 7 or 8 two-a-days in a row. There were a lot of outstanding players there – our running back went to Alabama, our quarterback, Mike O’Connor, went to Penn State, and this year’s quarterback, Deondre Francois, is a 2015 commit to Florida State. All of my reps were against the Penn State quarterback and Alabama running back, and we played against Francois and the school that he attended last year.”
While Huskie fans are just learning about Simons for the first time, we believe that he’s a player that you’ll be hearing a lot more about over the next few years. Welcome to the UofS Gabe!